By Caroline Vandergriff

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy lost a net 140,000 jobs in December, and all of them were women’s.

American men gained 16,000 jobs.

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Experts it say it illustrates how the recession brought on by COVID-19 continues to disproportionately affect women.

“It sort of constitutes this perfect storm to really move us back away from all the gains we’ve had in gender equity in the labor force, towards patterns of inequality we haven’t seen for 20 or 30 years now,” said William Scarborough, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of North Texas and a leader of the university’s Center for Racial and Ethnic Equity in Health and Society.

Many of the industries dominated by women – service jobs like healthcare, retail and tourism – have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

Studies also show on average, women do more than two times as much childcare and housework as men. Those demands have only increased with school shutdowns and limited childcare options.

“The fact of the matter is that most mothers during this time, have done two jobs,” Scarborough said. “They’ve homeschooled and been a caregiver for their children, and they’ve done paid employment at the same time.”

The toll on women in the workforce is expected to increase the gender wage gap in the years to come.

It will also affect women’s earning potential and retirement savings.

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“I think it’s going to impact us for decades,” said Cathy Dewitt Dunn, President and CEO of Dewitt & Dunn Financial Services. “Hopefully in my lifetime we’ll see it turn around, but I definitely think it’s something we need to be thinking about and planning for.”

Experts say change should start within families to ease some of the burdens on women.

Companies can also institute policies addressing these concerns and reevaluate their hiring and promotion decisions.

“And then at this sort of macro level we talk about the role of the government – local, state and federal government,” said Scarborough. “Investing in the care infrastructure is so vitally important.”

A new study he worked on found states that invested more in Headstart, an early childhood development program, during the last recession had a quicker economic recovery (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/fare.12519).

“The data show that investments in care infrastructure – in particular, early childhood and development programs – not only have benefits to children’s development and learning, but also pay dividends in families economic wellbeing, and in particular mothers’ reentry and advancement in the labor force,” he said.

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Caroline Vandergriff